‘Yellow Umbrella’ App Lets You Play Hong Kong Democracy Protester

‘Yellow Umbrella’ App Lets You Play Hong Kong Democracy Protester

By Sean Silbert and Julie Makinen, Los Angeles Times

BEIJING — Hong Kong’s democracy protesters are fighting off their chief executive, who is dressed as a wolf, with nothing but umbrellas, incense sticks and durian fruit.

At least that’s how the conflict takes place in “Yellow Umbrella,” a free game for Android cellphones that’s become an overnight hit among demonstrators. Since the app was released on Oct. 20, it has been downloaded more than 60,000 times, according to Hong Kong-based developer Awesapp. (A version for iPhone and iPad is under review by Apple.)

The app puts players atop one of the blockades that have become a flashpoint in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory’s conflict over rules for elections in 2017. Characters must defend against tear-gas wielding police, thuggish Triad gangsters and the city’s leader, Leung Chun-ying, wearing wolf clothing (Leung is a near-homophone for the Cantonese word for “wolf,” which has unflattering connotations). And in keeping with the nonviolent principles espoused by protest leaders, players cannot attack their assailants but must peacefully defend using umbrellas.

CEO and founder Fung Kam-keung said Awesapp wanted to make a game not only for fun but to show support to the students and to “let others know that they are very peaceful in asking for real elections.” In an email, he added that the game was constructed in just five days, with his team working day and night.

As for what gamers can achieve when they play “Yellow Umbrella” all the way through, he said, “Nobody can win this game. We want to tell that this is not a revolution. The protesters ask for democracy and peace.”
The game has received positive reviews on the Google Play store. Unsurprisingly, it is not available in mainland China. Most of the downloads so far, Fung said, have come from Hong Kong.

Cellphone games and other apps fall under China’s massive Internet censorship apparatus, which looks to only be getting more stringent. The Beijing News this week quoted experts suggesting that the State Internet Information Office, which manages online censorship, will introduce more regulations on who is qualified to publish cellphone apps and games.

The new regulations were not specified, but the agency claimed that they will strengthen Internet regulations to protect users’ “online security” and privacy.

Occasionally politically minded games like “Yellow Umbrella” make it through the firewall in China. In 2010, a game called “Nail House War” had players defend a house scheduled to be demolished by throwing shoes, Molotov cocktails and other weapons at a wrecking crew. Forced demolitions have been a contentious social issue for years in China, with many people being evicted from their longtime homes to make room for new developments.

AFP Photo/ Xaume Olleros

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